Home > Learning, Life > Cut.

Cut.

Yesterday, I competed in the IBJJF New York Open. This was the biggest jiu jitsu tournament I’ve competed in so far and my most unique tournament experience to date. It was one of those things where nothing went how I imagined it, even from five or six months ago when I silently committed to competing in this event.

Back in the November, I was in good shape from my summer and fall tournaments. My conditioning routine was very set and my diet was excellent. Since I wasn’t competing anytime soon, I eased up on the diet a little as we slid into the holidays. Then winter rolled around and not even the threat of death could get me out of bed early enough to do my morning workouts in the dark. I was still practicing four to six days a week, so I didn’t notice any significant changes in my body. I knew the New York Open was coming, but I kept telling myself, “I’ll get it together for February and March. That will give me time.” However, when February and March pulled up, I found myself getting sick constantly, and bad enough that I had to miss days of work. During those two months, I probably missed at least three weeks of practice. When I was on the mat, I felt slow and weak. I didn’t want to know what my scale had to say about all this. I tried to picture myself competing and felt like I would be setting myself up to fail. I didn’t want to do that for this tournament. In addition, my job was exploding in chaos and I wondered if I could handle the stress at work and prepare for a tournament at the same time. I wasn’t sure. So after some thought, I emailed my coaches and told them that I was not going to compete. They respected my decision and we left it at that.

Well, they left it at that, but a part of my brain couldn’t let it go. During practice, our drills and technique were geared toward competition. Our coaches talked to us about being good training partners for the people who were competing. I felt left out and jealous. I’m usually one of the people you’re supposed to help get ready for the tournament! One week, I had a few fun practices in a row. I felt like myself again. I wanted to fight. I told myself I should wait til the next one, but what the hell was I waiting for? I’m still a white belt. I’ve been improving over this past year and there is no better time for me to test myself than right now. So two and a half weeks before the tournament after consulting with my training buddies and coaches, I registered. It was done. Sigh of relief.

But no, no sigh of relief. If I know one thing about myself, it’s that I don’t like things to be easy. How did I make registering for a tournament hard? Well, I decided to go down a weight division. When I finally got brave enough and stepped on the scale, I was 131 (I normally hover around 125). This was a relief, since I was certain I was pushing 140 during my lazy/sick period. With my walking around weight, I would be in the light weight division. But feather weight went up to 129. I could get down to 129, no problem. Yet there was a problem because for IBJJF tournaments, you have to weight in with your gi, which could add anywhere from four to eight pounds. My gi added four. So for me to hit 129 with my gi, I’d have to get down to 125. Seven pounds in two and half weeks. In my head, that sounded easy. In my head, as soon as I started doing the extra workouts and went back to my training diet, all that weight that wasn’t supposed to be there would just fall off. Two and a half weeks seemed like plenty of time. The next day, I got on the scale. It said 132.

Fuck.

Despite cutting back my calories and adding my conditioning back in, I was stuck for a whole week at 129. I was so mad at myself. Why did I always have to make things harder? Who was I kidding? I can’t lose that much in two and half weeks. I have the slowest metabolism on the planet. I missed the deadline to switch my weight division. I started have a psychological melt down. I had wanted to test myself. I was feeling so good about where I was skill-wise and it seemed like the right time. The thought of getting disqualified for not making weight turned my stomach. That would be so humiliating–to lose before you even got on the mat. That wasn’t going to be me. I had to go hard. I was going to make weight. That was it.

On the Monday of tournament week, I weighed 127.6. I had to be at least 125, but ideally lighter since I didn’t know what the scale at the tournament would be like. Each day that week, I did kettle bell swings in the morning, trained at night, and did more swings when I got home. I lived off of bullet coffee, greek yogurt, and apples. I was certain this weight cut was going to make me angry, tired, and emotionally unstable. Surprisingly, the opposite happened. I felt clear. I was focused and alert. I was pumped to get up in the morning and start my workout. Each night on the bus after practice, I silently repeated the mantra to myself, “I am lighter.” I imagined myself shooting through outer space in my gi with bad pink and red energy waves bursting out of me. I was losing a pound a day. Yesterday morning, I was 122.8 without my gi and 127.0 in my gi. Two pounds under. I was so relieved. Even if the tournament scale was a little heavy, I’d be fine. I won the first fight. I happily scampered off to go meet my teammates so we could caravan to New York City and fight. I was excited. I was ready.

When I finally fought at 4:00 PM yesterday, all my excitement and confidence dissipated in an anti-climatic cross-choke. I was told the girl who beat me is an accomplished competitor and took gold in another IBJJF event the weekend before, but that doesn’t change my disappointment. I imagined myself fighting more matches–good matches where I could show my skill–but in less than five minutes, I was tapping out, walking off the mat, and not even trying to hold back my tears. I am still working out what the lessons are from my match, but one thing I am happy about is that I finally have some confidence going out there. I need to hang on to that.

Even though I lost, I have no regrets. I don’t regret the weight cut because it really made me feel like I can do anything. Yesterday was the right day for me to do the New York Open. My team had eight competitors, plus our coach and a new girl at our club who wanted to come and support us. I felt like I was rolling up with an army plus a family. It was also fantastic because some of the Philadelphia-area girls that I train with  where there, too, so we got to cheer each other on. This was the first tournament I went to since I was a little kid where I really felt like I was a part of something bigger. Yes, I went there to fight my own battle, but man-to-man combat is easier when you know you have back up. This year was the first year that my club had members of our women’s team compete in the New York Open. There were three of us, and while I had a sucky match, my teammates took home three medals between them. Overall, my team got ten medals for our eight competitors. I was the only one who didn’t medal yesterday, but I think that speaks well of our club. I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of my team, and I know with certainty now from the work and the tears that I really do love jiu jitsu.

 

Osagame team at the New York Open, 04.12.14

Osagame team at the New York Open, 04.12.14. That’s me, second in on the left, with my girls.

 

 

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  1. Nicole
    April 13, 2014 at 16:54

    I have a lot of respect for you. I’m not sure when I will be ready to compete, but it sure does help when there is someone in your corner routing for you. (I don’t really have this.) The guys that compete at my gym are guys so we won’t be competing in the same division and they have more experience than me.
    I’m in the singular class of older woman which make me unique in a lot of ways. One of the downsides is that I look younger than my actual age so when my true age is discovered it makes things awkward. I also become a wrestling dummy for the new white belts. What I am missing is feeling that I am on some sort of team and that I belong there. Secretly, I need to get a competition in while I am still a white belt.
    I have a talent for making things difficult too, so i won’t bore you with all the details that are running in my head.
    As I was reading your blog, I could relate to the angst that you were feeling from the gi weight combined with your weight and the anxiety of switching weight divisions.
    We all have battles even before we get to our scheduled ones. I would love to feel more emotionally connected to my gym, but my lack of ability to perform well often stops me in my tracks and I feel that i need to pull away. This is a battle that I always am struggling with.

    • April 13, 2014 at 22:18

      Nicole, there’s a lot I want to say but I don’t want to write you a novel. But the thing about competition is, you can’t wait until you think you’re ready. If you wait until then, you’ll never do it. It’s about seeing where you are at any given moment in time and having the chance to go against other people your age, weight, and skill-level.

      My club is full of people over 30. Most of us fight master’s, and we’re not in the same divisions. However, we are there for each other before, during, and after our matches. I value the guys who have more experience than I do–they really help me by sharing what they know. It sounds like you are still trying to find your place at your club. And I mean nothing against your gym, but it might not be your home. You might feel more comfortable somewhere else, but that is for you to find out as you go along.

      At any rate, keep yourself in the awesome circle of women in the area and you will keep growing and learning. Our open mats exist in part for women in your situation and our main goal is to support each other so we can all stay with the sport we love.

  2. Nicole
    April 13, 2014 at 23:46

    I also ended up with the same injury that I had last year. This is putting me in an aggravated mood because there is not much I can do when all of my energy is focused on not moving to hurt my ribs and my breathing. I don’t want this to happen to me every year. The warm air is helping the cough but the damage has been done to my rib cartilage. I knew when I started this journey that I would need to have patience.

  3. April 14, 2014 at 09:27

    You are a warrior. I always say to people that it’s easy to go and win but the real guts come from losing your match and finding the strength and courage to learn from it and continue the fight. I know you will do just that and I look forward to cheering you on at the next one. I never want to do another tournament without you girls there again!

    • April 15, 2014 at 21:06

      Man, i know you went through a similar battle and I agree with your sentiments. I could be the most athletic, fit person on the planet, but without practicing commitment and humility, I couldn’t hang in there.

      And I also never want to compete without our crew. As my aunt says, certain people are our psychological safety blankets!

      • April 16, 2014 at 10:55

        We totally blew it by not getting a group picture though. Shame on us.

      • April 19, 2014 at 13:14

        For realz. It’s like it never even happened since we didn’t document it!

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